The tour makes its second stop on the swing season this week as it heads to Asia for the CIMB Classic. This is a limited field, no-cut event as the field is capped at 78 players. There is a mix of the world’s most elite players and players from the Asian Tour teeing it up here so even though it is a no-cut event and every player will get in four rounds of golf, make sure you do a little research on some of the more obscure names before firing them into lineups. The course this week is TPC Kuala Lumpur (West), Malaysia and it’s one of the easiest on tour, as evidenced by the fact two-time winner Justin Thomas has now gone 49 under par over his last eight rounds. As a short par 72 venue all styles of golfers are in play here with it really coming down to an iron and putter contest on most holes.
Course Setup: Kuala Lumpur is a technical track but at barely over 7,000 yards it does not challenge players much as a par 72 layout. There are four very easy par 5’s on the course that most players will score very well on during the week. Generally the winners here have been dominate on the par 4’s as that is where you can separate yourself from the field. Driving distance isn’t really a factor and looking for players who are hot with their iron play is a good idea as the greens here are traditionally very soft and will allow players to stick it close on almost every hole. Experience playing in the region can be a factor too as the humidity here can be extremely draining and play a role with green speeds.
Justin Thomas ($12,500): Thomas is the two-time defending champion of this event and is coming off an insane end of season run where he won a major, won a playoff event and won the FedEx Cup. The 2017 player of the year has gone 49 under par at this event the past two seasons. Fading him this week might be a nice game theory play in gpps but given the level of play he’s exhibited the past month or so it’s also looking relatively unlikely to pay off. Getting at least some exposure to Thomas in your lineups this week seems like a must.
Gary Woodland ($8,700): Woodland had a sneakily good end of season run, as he was able to make his way to East Lake for the Tour Championship. With that goal accomplished he now heads to a venue where he has finished runner-up twice in four appearances. Woodland came extremely close to notching a win last season and by all accounts he suggested that he had been playing some of the best golf of his life in 2017. Given that, he should be eager for an early season win here and has great course history to fall back on.
Cameron Smith ($8,600): Smith was spotty in his form toward the end of last season but a T7 at the Wyndham and a T12 at the BMW Championship suggests his form is close to what it was when he won the team event with Jonas Blixt in early 2017. This technical track should favour Smith’s game as it de-emphasizes length off the tee. The fact former two-time winner Ryan Moore also won at the Wyndham, where Smith had one of his best finishes of the season, bodes well for the Aussie this week. Smith finished T5 here back in 2014 and sets up as a solid play on DraftKings this week.
Just Missed: Scott Piercy
Ollie Schniederjans ($8,000): Schniederjans started off the new season nicely with a top 20 finish in California. This will be his first time seeing TPC Kuala Lumpur but its possible the easy track will set up well for him. Schniederjans nearly won in late August on another short, technical track at the Wyndham and looks like a player who could get that first win at some point in this short swing season. His approach game is generally his strength and he should be helped by the soft greens here making him a nice upside play at just 8k, and also a nice affordable option to pair with one of the two big names at the top this week.
Charles Howell III ($7,400): Howell didn’t have a strong end of season playoff run, but it’s often in these weaker field events where he does his best work. This will be Howell’s fourth time playing TPC Kuala Lumpur and he has already recorded two top ten’s at this venue. The shorter track should favour Howell’s strong approach game, and while it’s debatable if he’ll be able sink enough putts to win outright, at just $7,400 in salary he seems like a great value option and another player you can target if choosing to stack a few big salaried players.
Others: Stewart Cink
High-upside GPP Picks
Scott Piercy ($8,600): Piercy had his 2017 season cut short by injury but came back last week with a strong T17 at the Safeway Open. This has traditionally been a good spot to target the veteran as he’s gone T10 and T7 here in two appearances. At $8,600 his price should keep ownership fairly low and he is a player who has definitely gone low on easier setups like TPC Kuala Lumpur before. This is a good spot to target him in large tournaments, although his injury history means making him a cash game target may be too risky.
Si Woo Kim ($7,500): Kim is another player who might be better left to gpps this week. The upside is definitely there however and he represents one of the true lower ranked players who looks capable of giving Justin Thomas and Matsuyama a run this week. Si Woo recorded one of his PGA wins at the Wyndham, an event former CIMB winner Ryan Moore has also won. He’s also not afraid to go low as he reached 21 under par at that event and shot a 60 en route. He finished T10 at this event last season and should be eager to make up for the President’s Cup where Thomas and company embarrassed his team.
Other: Pat Perez, Scott Brown
Players to Consider (in no order)
– Justin Thomas, Cameron Smith, Gary Woodland, Ollie Schniederjans, Charles Howell III
– Scott Piercy, Si Woo Kim, Scott Brown, Pat Perez
Gary Woodland 30-1
Ollie Schniederjans 50-1
Cameron Smith 56-1
Si Woo Kim 70-1